Duke VP Criticized for Facebook Post

Amid criticism, he deleted the post about China and his Facebook page.

December 20, 2018
Deleted posts by Larry Moneta

Larry Moneta, vice president of student affairs at Duke University, has drawn the ire of students yet again, this time for an offensive Facebook post about China.

Moneta posted a series of photos to his personal Facebook page from his visit to Duke Kunshan University, a satellite campus in China that is a partnership between Duke and Wuhan University, alongside variations on the caption “Reasons to move to China … NOT!”

The photos -- of two bags of flavored potato chips, a poor air quality rating and a squat toilet -- were reposted to the Duke students’ meme page Duke Memes for Gothicc [sic] Teens. The Asian Students Association also reposted the photos alongside a statement condemning Moneta’s comments.

“These may seem like just ‘jokes,’ but these jokes reveal racist and orientalist assumptions that China and Chinese people are dirty and unsanitary,” the statement read in part. “As VP of Student Affairs, it is egregious Moneta would denigrate the cultural practices of many of the students he supposedly cares about and also disparage the home of many of these students. Moneta is the head of the very spaces at Duke that are supposed to foster multicultural engagement -- and yet he is making a mockery of it. Furthermore, it is simply inappropriate and hypocritical for Moneta as a high ranking university administrator to go to China, visit our partnership with Duke Kunshan University, and joke about reasons he would not want to move to China.”

Moneta has since deleted the post and his Facebook account. He did not respond to Inside Higher Ed’s request for comment.

This isn’t the first time Moneta has come under fire for his social media comments. In April, he tweeted that “Freedom of expression protects the oppressed far more than the oppressors” while criticizing campus hate speech bans and received significant pushback. Off-line, in May, he complained to the university about an employee at a coffee shop who played music that included the N-word, which resulted in her firing.

Moneta announced in August that he will retire at the end of the 2018-19 academic year after serving as vice president of student affairs for 17 years.

More and more university officials are creating social media accounts, which has resulted in occasional missteps. Eric Stoller, a student affairs and technology blogger for Inside Higher Ed, said that when officials do mess up on social media, humility is key.

“Humility goes a long way when it comes to being a senior leader on social media. If you do make a mistake, acknowledge it immediately and work towards understanding why a post (or posts) have caused harm to your community,” Stoller wrote in an email. “The worst thing (and often the first reaction) that a leader can do is build up digital walls that exacerbate a problem that they are responsible for creating.”

Despite the occasional (and very public) online blunders, Stoller still believes that social media are great tools for university officials.

“I am all for administrators using social media to build community, enhance the student experience and amplify their leadership capacity,” he wrote. “Digital channels create spaces for dialogue, resource sharing … as well as a broader means of communication. The benefits always outweigh the cons. Most of the time, admins are using social media in all sorts of positive, creative and uplifting ways.”

Duke University declined to comment for this story.

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Emma Whitford

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